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The Select Board met at Town Hall for the first time since closing in early March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some board members and staff have been in the building, the meetings had been held remotely.

Clarksburg Sets Special Town Meeting for PILOT Authorization

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town hopes to come to an agreement with two solar installations for payment in lieu of taxes.
 
The Select Board will need authorization to enter into any PILOT and a special town meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center for that vote.
 
"The town has to say, yes, you have permission to enter into an agreement," Town Assessor Ross Vivori told the Select Board on Wednesday. "Once that's in place, it should be good for future stuff that comes up as well."
 
There are two large commercial arrays off River Road and a third off Gravel Bank Road. Only one, Clean Energy Collective on River Road, has already agreed to a PILOT. 
 
Vivori explained that there were two assessing elements to the arrays: one is the real estate underneath them that can be assessed as industrial and the personal property side — mountings, panels, inverters, etc. 
 
"The law hasn't caught up with a lot of this stuff yet," he said. "The law was so broadly written that, technically, they're exempt from personal property tax on installed equipment."
 
Several towns had attempted to tax arrays but a ruling by the Appellate Tax Board has found in favor of industrial solar based on the state law. 
 
The town has been frustrated in trying to develop agreements with the two arrays. The Planning Board balked at expanding the current solar overlay zone largely because it felt the town was getting no benefit from the industrial power generators. 
 
Last year, the Select Board voted to bill the arrays but, as Vivori predicted at the time, both appealed to the tax board, which found in their favor.
 
However, in negotiating the abatements, the arrays indicated they may be agreeable to PILOTs. 
 
The details are still being worked out but Vivori estimated the town could get around $10,000 annually for 20 years.
 
"It's not huge money but it's either this or nothing," he said.
 
In other business, Town Administrator Rebecca Stone reported that she has been working on several grants, including a MassWorks grant for improvements on Middle Road. She said she will be reaching out to surrounding communities and the state of Vermont to help "beef up" the application. Middle and River roads are main roads into Vermont. 
 
The new fire alarm system at Town Hall has been completed. It was last upgraded in 1973. Weatherization is still being worked on. 
 
• The town garage addition and renovation has been pushed back because of availability of materials. 
 
• The town has renewed its search for an administrative assistant and is now accepting applications. The town also needs someone to fill a vacant seat on the three-person Board of Assessors. 
 
• New England Regional Dispensaries, planned for 34 Cross Road, will be holding a community outreach meeting on Wednesday, July 15, at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center. Representatives of the proposed pot production greenhouse and retail outlet will hear residents' concerns and answer questions. 
 
• The next meeting of the Select Board will be Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Tags: PILOT,   solar array,   special town meeting,   

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Clarksburg School Reopening Plans Affected by HVAC Issues

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Results from a survey of parents last month. 
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — School officials' plans for reopening this fall are being complicated by the condition of Clarksburg School. 
 
The administration is recommending a hybrid plan of in-school and remote because of issues with the ventilation system.
 
"Ventilation as a very key piece in keeping our schools safe," Principal Tara Barnes told the School Committee on Thursday. "We have some preliminary results that are telling us that many of our classrooms are not up to code to be able to handle COVID. In particular, they're not exchanging air."
 
Barnes said the building is being evaluated as part of the plans being developed to deliver education during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is requiring schools to submit plans for in-person teaching, remote or a hybrid model of both by Thursday.
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